Home Immunity editorial | Qualified immunity – The community word

editorial | Qualified immunity – The community word


Here are statements consistent with the editorial in the November issue of Community Word by Professor Joanna Schwartz, “Ending qualified immunity won’t ruin cops’ finances.” This will better protect the public. This piece was reprinted with permission from USA Today.

Don Jackson, lawyer, Peoria:

I think qualified immunity far too often shields bad cops from responsibility for their wrongdoing. By extending this protection to the offending employee, the unit that employs him (say a police department) also avoids liability. Unfortunately, the injured employee or the victim finds himself without recourse. In addition, too often the courts show deference to a claimant of qualified immunity.

Jim Lewis, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, has retired:

Qualified immunity takes a decent idea far too far. Yes, we shouldn’t surprise people by deciding after the fact that they were somehow wrong, but surely we should be able to expect people to distinguish right from wrong and that ‘They are doing what is obviously right instead of what is obviously wrong.

Reverend Marvin Hightower, President, Peoria NAACP:

A few days ago, Chief Eric Echevarria, Sheriff Brian Asbell who could not be present but was represented by the Superintendent. Rhonda Guyton and I signed off on the 10 Shared Principles that were developed and adopted by the Illinois Association Chiefs of Police and the NAACP State Conference. The 10 Shared Principles were created to build trust between the police and the community.

Chief Echevarria and the Peoria Police Department have gone one step further in that he is now part of the department’s general orders. In addition, each agent has signed and received a copy of the principles.

The core of the principles is that every life is valued in the community.

These principles have been signed by more than 260 law enforcement agencies in the state of Illinois.

While signing the Principles has been and remains important, it is only the start of a long overdue and much needed police reform.

Qualified immunity is one of the most important things to deal with regarding police reform.

Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine affording protection to law enforcement officers and other government officials from certain prosecutions seeking pecuniary damages for civil rights violations occurring in the exercise of their usual functions.

Derrick Johnson, chief executive officer of the NAACP, said in an interview, “We have to address qualified immunity, there has to be a public database of police conduct. We have to consider the standard of review to hold the police criminally accountable when they cross the line. “

Police officers are part of the community, not a separate entity, and should be held accountable for their actions.

Responsibility and accountability will lead to behavior, therefore, I like President Johnson, that qualified immunity needs to be addressed.


The police occupy a special role in our society and hold unparalleled power over the lives of individuals. Qualified immunity isolates this power, ensuring that even when the police act in a way that infringes our most sacred constitutional rights, they cannot be held accountable by the public they serve. What is qualified immunity? In short, it is a legal doctrine which ensures that the police are hardly ever held accountable in a civil court for the constitutional prejudices they inflict on a member of the public. Since the police are rarely fired for gross violations of the Constitution and rarely held accountable in a criminal court, the continued existence of qualified immunity ensures that the police can usually escape responsibility entirely.

Yet when the question of ending qualified immunity for police arises, law enforcement officers repeat the same tired and patently false claims about what they want the public to think is qualified immunity. actually does. As Professor Joanna Schwartz noted in her recent editorial, the “dire predictions” regarding the end of qualified immunity are, to say the least, “unsupported by the facts.” No, qualified immunity does not protect police from paying a dime out of their own pocket for unconstitutional actions (i.e., police compensation, which is required by Illinois law and no. has nothing to do with qualified immunity); no, qualified immunity is not what allows police officers to make split-second decisions (police can thank the Fourth Amendment for that, and the Supreme Court ruling in Graham v. Connor, which no. has nothing to do with qualified immunity); and no, qualified immunity has absolutely nothing to do with criminal liability. As Professor Schwartz rightly noted in his article, “the arguments used to preserve qualified immunity. . . have no basis in reality.

There is a clear path to begin to solve the bad apple problem: to hold the police accountable when they violate a person’s constitutional rights. It’s that simple. The Illinois Assembly can create significant police accountability by passing the House Bill 1727. But for HB 1727 to become law, our lawmakers must hear from the public in sufficient numbers and look beyond baseless arguments to uphold the law. qualified immunity.

It is high time to review these baseless arguments and focus on the reality itself: the police are largely irresponsible to the public, even when they commit blatant constitutional violations that shock our collective conscience. Police chiefs may recognize “a few bad apples”, but they are fighting tooth and nail to oppose even the slightest attempts to allow people to hold “bad apples” accountable. We can no longer accept the presence of bad apples in our police force as a mere fact of life, especially when the average police kill over 1,000 people in America each year.

Some states have already taken steps with regards to qualified immunity – most notably, Colorado and New Mexico have taken steps to eliminate qualified immunity, and many more states will hopefully follow suit. In Illinois, there is a legislative proposal similar to that passed in Colorado law: HB 1727, the Bad Apples in Law Enforcement Accountability Act. HB 1727 would allow persons who are injured by the unconstitutional actions of a police officer to bring an action for damages against that officer in a civil court. The bill would provide a recourse, albeit narrow, to ensure that victims of gross police misconduct get justice and begin to create meaningful accountability among our police, which in turn will enhance the toxic culture of policing. order and will begin to engender greater community trust. HB 1727 in no way disrupts police compensation, does not limit the ability of the police to make “split-second decisions”, does not create any criminal liability, and even allows courts to dismiss frivolous claims ( and to sanction those who present such complaints).

Editor’s Note: HB 1727, Agent Liability, Law Enforcement Bad Apples Liability Act 2021:
Creates the Law Enforcement Accountability Act 2021. Provides that a peace officer subjecting another person to the deprivation of individual rights is responsible to the person for an appropriate remedy.